Podcasts Part 2: The Guardian Books & Short Story Podcasts

Podcasts Part 2

After my previous post on the excellent CBC podcast ‘Writers and Company’, I thought I’d recommend a few more that I regularly listen to. First:

The Guardian Books Podcast (the link is to the homepage, where further links to previous episodes can be found; also shows how to subscribe, download or stream from the site). Ably presented by the paper’s books editor Claire Armitstead. The quality of ‘author interviews, readings and discussions’ is generally very high.

Nora WebsterThe most recent download available from 5 June was an interview with Colm Tóibín on the subject of women protagonists in his work, from his last novel Nora Webster (which I reviewed here) to his book about the poet Elizabeth Bishop. As always he’s on fine form (at one point he mistakes the name of one of his characters; his interviewer tactfully corrects him, but his riposte is wittily inventive). It was recently pointed out that only two Booker Prize winners since 2000 have featured female protagonists; Tóibín bucks that trend with aplomb.

Other notable prose fiction covered recently includes an interview with Kazuo Ishiguro on the subject of his latest novel, The Buried Giant (from 26 March this year), and Richard Flanagan’s 2014 Man Booker Prize winner The Narrow Road to the Deep North (from 14 Oct. last year).

Non-fiction is also covered. Most recently, on 16 April this year, there was an interview with John Lewis-Stempel, ‘peasant farmer’ author of Meadowland, winner of the 2015 Thwaites Wainwright Prize (links there to various related items, including his acceptance speech) awarded for the best writing of the year on the outdoors and nature.

This item was paired with an interview with Sarah Hall on her novel The Wolf Border (Guardian review from 1 April here), which concerns a bizarre attempt by a northern landowner to reintroduce wolves on his remote borderland estate.

Such themed items are regular; for example on 17 February 2012 the subject was historical fiction, with Kate Grenville and Hilary Mantel in the interview seats.

Hungarian writer ­László Krasznahorkai

Photo of Krasznahorkai from the Guardian website

The Guardian podcast regularly covers literature in translation. Some recent items include an interview (22 April) with this year’s Man Booker International prize winner, the Hungarian Lásló Krasznahorkai (whose novels Seibo Down Below and Satantango have languished on my TBR pile for far too long). Then on 11 April there was a feature on European fiction, including interviews with Peirene Press’s Meike Ziervogel, the French novelist Marie Darrieussecq, whose debut Pig Tales came out in the UK in English translation in 1996 (her latest is All the Way), and Dutch writer Peter Buwalda, whose first novel Bonita Avenue was published last year.

On 10 May the literature of Africa featured, then Mexico (17 May); on 4 April 2014 New Indian Literature was the subject, and on 28 March, Korean –  Hwang Sok-Yong, Hwang Sun-Mi and Yi Mun-Yol were profiled.

Other work by non-English writers to be discussed on the podcast: from 13 February this year an item on South Korean poet and novelist Han Kang and the South African S.J. Naudé (currently published by And Other Stories). More well-known names to feature include Haruki Murakami (1 Jan. this year, on his latest, from 2014, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage).

It’s not all prose; poets to feature recently include Carol Ann Duffy, Liz Lochhead, Seamus Heaney, Simon Armitage, T.S. Eliot (a piece on the fourth volume of his collected letters, a podcast of 27 December 2013) and John Burnside.

Also recommended: the Guardian’s Short Story podcast, which ran from 2010-2013, but the archive is still available here. Authors read a favourite item, and then talk about their choice in highly enlightening interviews. A random sample:

Julian Barnes reads and discusses ‘Homage to Switzerland’ by Ernest Hemingway

Will Self: ‘Exactitude in Science’ by Jorge Luis Borges

James Salter: ‘Break it Down’ by Lydia Davis (released May 2013, shortly after she won the Man Booker International prize)

Sebastian Barry: James Joyce’s ‘Eveline’ – which I reviewed over at the Mookse and Gripes site here.

Hanif Kureishi: Kafka’s ‘The Hunger Artist’, which he describes as ‘absurd, moving and timely’

Richard Ford: ‘The Student’s Wife’ – an early Raymond Carver story

I think you’ll agree that’s a pretty impressive list – and there are many more. Highly recommended.

I intend adding profiles of more of my favourite podcasts soon. Have you any comments, recommendations or suggestions?